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Beveridge Report

Labour's Bad Memory

But this is terrible. They have elected a Labour government and the country will never stand for that. (Woman dining at Claridge's, 26 July 1945.)

Thirty years ago—on October 5 1951 to be exact—the British people voted to set themselves free, to expunge austerity from their lives, to replace snoek and dried eggs with good red meat. At least that was what Tory politicians (like Churchill, Eden, Butler, Woolton—how evocative the very names are now) had told them would happen if they got rid of the Labour government.

The government—Labour's first ever with its own majority—was elected, in the final stages of the 1939/45 war, on the promise to build a fair, abundant, secure Britain. What happened, between 1945 and 1951. to swing the voters the other way?

Where Reformism Fails

The dispute between Reformists and Socialists is not a very easy one to disentangle. This is partly due to the variety of arguments put forward by reformists, but above all to the failure of reformists to grasp the Socialist explanation of the problem that has to be solved.

The problem is not that of a social system that is satisfactory on the whole and only needs improvements here and there. If it were the reformist would be on the right road —but then there would be nothing in the Socialist case for the abolition of Capitalism.

The Communists and Beveridge

The Communist Party is giving its support to the Beveridge scheme, subject to certain amendments. This has, however, not entirely pleased the readers of the Daily Worker. In their issue of December 22, 1942, J. R. Campbell confessed that the attitude of the Communist Party paper "perplexes a number of our readers, who ask us whether this system of benefits represents our ideal of a new world." Campbell answers that it does not represent the ideal, but that the report, "if it becomes law, would be a definite improvement on the existing chaotic muddle in the social services. Why not support it?"

To a reader who asks why not consider instead ways and means of ending the capitalist system, Campbell replies that "he is presenting an unreal alternative."

The gist of the argument is expressed in the following passage from Campbell's article: -

Why Beveridge Reorganized Poverty

Fifty years ago this month the Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services by Sir William Beveridge was published to widespread acclaim. Supporters of all the pro-capitalist political parties hailed the Report as the basis for a restructured and improved social provision for the working class after the war against Germany had been won. According to the veteran Communist campaigner Willie Gallagher there was no mistaking the attitude of the British population to the plan. He told the House of Commons:

    "The trade union movement wants the Beveridge Plan, the Co-operative movement wants it, the Labour Party wants it, the Communist Party wants it, and the Liberals and a section of the Tory Party want it. It is clear that the great masses of the people, as represented by these forces, want the plan."

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